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Harness the power of your personal history

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by Kat

Kat Lee is a writer, speaker, and the reigning CandyLand champion in her home. She blogs at Inspired to Action, where she helps overwhelmed moms become focused and purposeful. Kat and her husband live in Texas with their three children.

Would you send your kids to a school that didn’t teach history?

Is history necessary? I mean, it’s called history…it already happened. We can’t change anything about it. Shouldn’t our kids focus on subjects like math and science to get them ready for the future, instead of reliving the past?

Whoa…keep your tar and feathers in your hands and hear me out for a second.

This isn’t actually a post about school, education, or history. It’s a post about you. And me. And the power of our personal history.

We want our kids to learn about history because hindsight is 20/20. The wisdom we glean from the past is priceless for the future.

It’s true in the world as a whole and it is also true in our own personal lives. Yet how many of us regularly take stock of our personal history?

Oh, we have scrapbooks (if you’re like me, half finished scrapbooks) and we know when we were born, where we went to school, and a few stories along the way. But if we can learn so much from decades and centuries past, can’t we also learn from the recent past?

What can we learn from last year, last week, and yesterday?

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Experts talk a lot about life planning, goal setting, and dreaming big. They talk about bucket lists, weekly plans, and to-do lists.

It’s fun (usually) to plan and dream, but we only get half the value of planning if we don’t also take the time to review.

Leadership expert John Maxwell takes one weekend each year to systematically go through his ENTIRE calendar for the previous year and evaluate how he spent his time. He reviews each appointment and task listed in his day planner from January to December.

Now, before we consider that crazy and a waste of time, let’s take a look at what John Maxwell has accomplished in his life.

He has authored over 60 books, hit the NYT Best Seller list many times, started several leadership training organizations that serve in more than 80 countries, is one of the most sought-after business speakers, and has been married for over 40 years.

If “wasting” an entire weekend each year yields those kinds of result…sign me up.

But Maxwell doesn’t stop there, he takes dedicated time each week to review the week and time each day to review the previous twenty-four hours.

Football coaches watch game film. Businesses review sales charts. Even fast food restaurants ask us to fill out “How Did We Do” surveys so that they can evaluate how well their plans matched up with our experience.

Maybe it would be worth our time to look back on our day, week, or month to figure out what went wrong and what went right and how we can adjust our course for tomorrow.

Albert Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different outcome.”

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Today, I challenge you to study your own history. Make a date with yourself each week and review how your plans and your reality of the previous seven days lined up. If something went wrong, where did it go wrong? How can you try again this next week?

Learning from history doesn’t need to end when we close a textbook or graduate from school. It can happen every day as we forge a new path in our personal growth.

Have you ever thought of having a weekly review time? What lessons have you learned this week or even today?

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Comments

  1. avatar
    young c says:

    Like this!

  2. This was an amazing post! Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. avatar
    Jennifer says:

    Fantastic advice, Kat. Thanks for these thoughts.

  4. Thanks for this great perspective on life, and evaluating how we spend our time, and how we can tweak our actions, plans, and future by looking at our pasts.

    I’ve never thought of having a weekly review before, but by looking at this past week, I guess I could come to some conclusions that would really help me in the next.

    I started going to bed earlier, and waking up earlier, which has led to much more productive days. I started preparing for dinner guests we invited over 24 hours before they came, rather than the same afternoon! This totally minimised my stress level by 100%! I had a couple of blog consultations which were so helpful, and something that I would do again…

    So… yes… reviewing my past week can definitely aid me in affirming what I’ve done right, and correcting what could be done differently!

    Thank you so much, Kat! This is potentially life-changing!!!

    God bless you as you abide in His Word!

    • Tehila,
      I’m so glad it inspired you! It’s amazing what just a little retrospect can teach us and how powerfully it can impact our tomorrow.

  5. What a great post! I can’t tell you how many times I stop and think “wow, another week has flown by”. But I’ve never thought about sitting down and thinking about the events of the week. There’s no doubt that reviewing things could be very beneficial.

    • I try to take the time to review every Friday. I actually have a date with myself on the calendar. It’s had a huge impact on my life and my home. I hope it helps you too, Christina!

  6. Holy moly, talk about being intentional. That sounds like a fantastic idea.

    Akin to writing down and reviewing what we eat if we’re trying to eat healthier–why wouldn’t we closely watch how our time is spent if we want to be more effective at pursuing what’s really important in life?

    Thanks, Kat!

    • Jenn,
      I hadn’t actually thought about it like that, but it is just like food tracking. There have been some really interesting studies about how just reviewing what we eat every day impacts our decisions. Makes me wonder if there have been any studies about reviewing our time….off to Google I go. Thanks Jenn!

  7. Love, love, love this idea! I read Beautiful Girlhood years ago and started the practice then of reviewing my day with God in prayer before bed at night. The idea of going through my planner pages and actually evaluating is scary-awesome.

  8. Wow. This is great! I love the info about John Maxwell and well, it’s hard to argue with the “evidence” from his life. ;) I love this post b/c it’s a constructive way to evaluate what we’ve tried, what we should have exactly rather than a “let’s look back, see where things went wrong, and beat ourselves up over it,” which is what I can (and I don’t think I’m alone) be prone to, especially as a “recovering perfectionist,” as I like to call myself.

    Our family just moved to Thailand 6 weeks ago, so the learning curve is high. This last week, I have learned to speak a few more Thai words/phrases, that just because I’m the “new girl” in town doesn’t mean I should sit back and wait for others to initiate relationship, to laugh when I “fail,” and am growing (even in minute ways) in really believing the message of the gospel for my identity vs. my performance as a mom on particular days when I really feel like I blew it. And that’s just the beginning of the list … ;)

    Thanks for this post and for your challenge – awesome.

    • Dawn,
      Wow! Thailand. I can’t begin to imagine all the extra challenges that brings with it. But what an amazing opportunity to be completely out of your comfort zone and grow. Praying for you today…

  9. I’ve never thought of doing this, but what a great idea! I love the idea of making what happened matter in a new way – like game film we can review and improve upon. Genius!

  10. I love this! I don’t do it enough, but really, as a mom it it’s important to recognize where you screwed up or did amazing and adjust accordingly.

  11. Great post! Thanks so much for the challenge =)

  12. avatar
    Kari C. says:

    I’m reminded of some things you’ve written about weekly and annual retreats for ourselves. If anyone else is interested in thinking more about this idea of reflecting and evaluating what we do, how it actually works out, how we can plan, etc. here are a couple links. (Hope that’s OK Kat.)

    http://inspiredtoaction.com/2011/04/why-and-how-to-take-a-weekly-retreat/
    http://inspiredtoaction.com/2013/02/what-to-do-on-your-yearly-retreat/

    I’m planning an annual retreat. Just emailed a friend asking if I can use their home when they’re away, in part moved forward to that step by thinking through your post today. I’ve added to my idea list for my retreat to reflect on your ideas here today as well as they weekly and annual retreat ideas.

    Thanks for your writings and the way you serve women you don’t even know.

    • Kari,
      Oh, I hope your retreat is a wonderful, powerful time for you! I think you’re right that having weekly times of review is integral to having yearly retreat – to make sure we are headed in the direction we decided to go. It’s so very easy (for me, at least) to let the urgent things push out the important things.

      Thanks for sharing that insight!

  13. avatar
    Christina says:

    What a great post! The next step for me is determining what I need to drop out of my already too busy schedule to make time for this important practice. (I’m currently in the process of “weeding”, so this is timely.) I also wanted to let you know that even though I am your intended audience, my husband occasionally reads your posts (when I forward them) and really enjoys them. :-) I will be passing this one along…

  14. avatar
    Claire sitting at the kitchen table in the UK says:

    I love this post. THank you. I love the idea of reviewing the week.
    I think it’s also good to know the personal history of our elders / family
    My beloved dad recently died. At his funeral a story was told of how as a teenager (during the second world war) the factory where he worked in London was being bombed . When everyone ran for the air raid shelter, one guy who suffered from claustrophobia refused to go because he was too scared to move. SO, my dad (aged 19) sat with his friend in the canteen whilst the bombs fell. They survived. I use this story to tell my daughter that she must stick with her friends / the importance of loyalty etc….. Also I LOVE the fact that I can see elements of my dad in my nephews (in their early twenties) they are SO loyal to their friends, it’s humbling.

    • Claire,
      Wow! What an amazing story….and heritage. Your dad’s loyalty and courage will no doubt have an impact on your daughter and your nephews.

  15. Great idea! I am a history teacher (!) and I use the analogy that just like no one can ever really know you without knowing your past, where you come from, etc., we cannot really know ourselves collectively without knowing our collective history. I’ve never thought of this practice of a weekly check-in on my history, but I think it sounds very powerful. Thanks!

  16. Kat,
    This is a great idea. It reminds me of how the spiritual giants of yesterday practiced something along these lines in their daily prayer of examen: a time to pay attention to God’s presence with us as mentally review our day and a time to pay attention to our conscience as we review our day. Honest reflection goes well past performance and productivity into healthy spiritual formation and maturity, gifts which I prefer to the former!

  17. My reflection usually consists of being kind of hard on myself for not accomplishing “enough.” I like the idea of looking back intentionally and constructively. When I list out my daily goals I accomplish more that is important, and I think looking backward as well as forward will be a really productive thing.

    Great thoughts! Thank you for this.

  18. I have a gratitude book for 2013 and at the end of each month it has a summary page and its great to look back over the month to reflect and see how much you have accomplished. I really like the idea of taking a weekend off once a year to reflect and look back

  19. This isn’t at all what I thought the post was going to be about when I clicked over from Twitter… BUT wow, so powerful. Thanks for sharing. I know for certain that if I was to do that I’d be hit with some less than desirable revelation about how I spend my time. I’ve done a “time track” for a week before for similar reasons, but it’s been years. Maybe it’s time for me to revisit that. Thanks for the encouragement, Kat.

    • You’re very welcome, Ariel! If it’s something you choose to incorporate into your weeks, I hope it has a wonderfully positive impact on you.

  20. this is great advice. i want to start working this into my time.

  21. The things you should do to discover watch well before you are left out.

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